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On Literacy

Educational Solutions Worldwide Inc.

Caleb Gattegno


vol. V no. 4

April 1976

First published in 1976. Reprinted in 2009. Copyright Š 1976-2009 Educational Solutions Worldwide Inc. Author: Caleb Gattegno All rights reserved ISBN 978-0-87825-285-5 Educational Solutions Worldwide Inc. 2nd Floor 99 University Place, New York, N.Y. 10003-4555

In this issue we direct ourselves to a challenge which has fascinated many educators including ourselves. The literature on the subject is enormous, particularly if we take into account all that UNESCO and various governments have published for over a quarter of a century. Our position being one concerned with what we see as an effective theoretical solution to the global problem and a beginning of translating the approach into techniques and materials for some areas of the world, we have taken the liberty of referring only to our work, leaving to our knowledgeable readers the job of comparing it to what they know from other sources. We concerned ourselves with the United States, which in spite of its affluence, has a complex illiteracy problem; with the Democratic Republic of China that claims not to have a literacy problem; with India where 70% of the adult population does not read and where we show our solution for one of the 16 official languages; with the problem of illiteracy in Spanish-speaking countries for Spanish-speaking people. The variety of the challenges may serve as a background which might display the properties of our solutions for interested people. Our news items include references to work mentioned in previous Newsletters and on which we want to keep our readers informed.

Table of Contents

The Problem And The Problems ........................................... 1 Literacy In America .............................................................. 7 Literacy For Beginners ......................................................... 9 Literacy For Older Ones.......................................................15 Spanish Literacy ................................................................. 21 Literacy - The Indian Challenge .......................................... 27 Literacy In Mandarin Or Other Dialects ............................. 33 News Items ......................................................................... 39 An Obituary ........................................................................ 45

The Problem And The Problems

Strictly speaking once we understand how a language we can speak has been encoded, we can use the second medium as well as the first and to that extent say that we have become literate. This we consider to be the problem of literacy for native speakers of whatever language we have in mind, and we can confidently say that this problem is solved or is easily solvable. Indeed our prolonged studies in many languages have constantly confirmed that people only need to make sense of reading as a special activity of theirs for them to be able to utter sequences of sounds triggered by sequences of written or printed signs and to hear them as speech. When the expressed sounds belong to their experience, there is immediate comprehension at the level they have it in conversation and when they listen to speeches. Hence the first problem to solve in any literacy proposal should be to find the means to make immediately understandable to the students what they have to do with themselves to transmute looking at strings of signs into uttering strings of sounds that sound like their spoken language. For this we have devised one technique in which a pointer is made to link a number of colored signs on a wall chart (which we call the Fidel of that language), thus making the sequence real because of the reality of the temporal order and indicating with a special impulse of the pointer where the stress falls in each of the successive words.


On Literacy

Such a simple device is all that is needed to make students aware of the act of reading: i.e., sounding according to precise rules what has been pointed out in a definite order. When the sequence of such utterances is heard it triggers the subsequent awareness: “I am saying something that tells me something in my own language, which I’ve practiced for a number of years.” If one is five or fifty-five, a number of years of practice obviously exist. We have seen people make sense of reading in less than an hour. But there are other problems, and we need to look at them separately as they are of different kinds. 1 Because the thinking about reading has been going on for so long and so many people have been engaged in it, the word “reading” has become a depository for all sorts of associations, which generate more disputes and quarrels than collaboration and clarity. A scientific approach is needed to settle the matter as was attempted in our work on “Words in Color;” unfortunately, though, this approach has not been widely examined. 2 A cohort of interested people who see reading as a difficult challenge are now earning their living in that field. This has also produced vested interests that do not wish to see illiteracy disappear quickly and thoroughly: a political problem becoming more difficult to tackle every day. 3 From another angle a number of governments want (or oppose) literacy because it makes people more susceptible (less keen) to be indoctrinated by whoever controls the means of communication. When governments do want literacy for their population the solution today is at hand — thanks to television, the progress of electronic technology, and audio-visual mobile units. 4 The field of reading is in the hands of school people, clinicians, publishers, and materials manufacturers who have all invested energy, time, money and wish to receive some returns for such investments. Very few among them are prepared to devote themselves to the eradication of illiteracy; in fact, consciously or unconsciously, they wish 2

The Problem And The Problems

it to go on indefinitely. A civil servant of the Federal Department of Labor expressed it very succintly: “So long as there are schools to produce illiterates we are in business� (as providers of alternative education beyond high schools). Against these formidable odds, idealists see success by imagining that people of good will will heed their suggestions and cooperate to eliminate illiteracy. As a technician of education, I personally considered that I could only look at the obstacles after I had seen clearly that there was a workable solution capable of taking care of the size of the challenge. Since I could not find support from reading specialists because they were part of the problem, from governments because they were ambivalent towards a true solution and preferred the continuation of the status quo, from school people, publishers and materials manufacturers because of the possible competition of my solution with their ways of working and products, I was left with the only alternative: to pursue on my own the proof that the problem could be tackled and solved. For the three languages, Amarigna, English and Spanish, I produced solutions that could be implemented by television. In a number of other languages, solutions employing teachers in existing schools, or with mobile vans, exist which are either fully developed or on their way to completion. All this has been done as a research and development effort before any social steps were taken to present the results to the public and the users. On reflection, the road followed seems to have been the only one open, in terms of the temporal hierarchies implied in the succession of moves required to meet the challenge of illiteracy. Without actual solutions that can in deed eradicate illiteracy, the presentation of inadequate would-be solutions is just one more political move by someone who wants to secure for himself advantages in the world. Therefore, in this Newsletter we are only taking the position of people involved in elaborating an actual solution to a small number of situations, although the number of persons involved may be enormous. The languages studied are four but the people involved in Spanish-


On Literacy

speaking countries, in China and India, and in the English speaking countries amount to more than half the world’s population. Because reading has so many meanings, in this introductory article I would like to bring to our readers’ attention that, instead of creating a threatening situation when everyone is able to make sense of what reading entails — and as a result making the remedial classes disappear — the eradication of illiteracy opens up new opportunities for those who earn their living by educating the illiterate. We can easily see that new literates are customers, though of another kind: they want to use their new powers which can extend over various kinds of reading: reading for pleasure, reading to acquire knowledge, to become a craftsman, to become more competent in any field, and so on. In addition, this extension can also take place in writing. Writing implies competence in spelling, grammar, punctuation, in recognizing how one handles in a compact piece of writing a variety of challenges: describing, narrating, discussing, presenting arguments, deepening insights, etc. New literates will need teachers at least as much as illiterates but this time to reach a more abundant life rather than to acquire a simple skill (for which today only hours are needed where in the past years were required and not always with a very clear result). We intend in this issue to act as professionals and to let our readers know what we have done in a few areas so that they can judge our contribution in the technical field. We know as certainly as we may wish that the technical side of the challenge has already been fully met. We know how to train teachers so that they too are sure that they can help their students to fully make sense of what reading is and to give them practice to reach fluency and comprehension of what they can say when they see this in writing. We also know how to make readers squeeze new information out of textbooks although this is a very different kind of reading from the one just mentioned. Our studies of the teaching of reading have structured the field in a manner that makes it much more precise and more definite so that students can be engaged in very different activities relating to the 4

The Problem And The Problems

various ways of reading we have distinguished, called R1, R2 . . . . . Rn . n could be as high as 20, and it is also possible that there are other meanings of reading that we have left out. We can sum up our contribution in the field of literacy as follows: the basic problem has been formulated and solved in the case of a number of languages. We have found three meanings of reading (R1, R2, R3) which everyone must acquire in order to be able to go beyond what can be said spontaneously (at any age before or after 6, provided one is not in special education); and we have developed the means of taking care of them; we have also designated R4 the reading asked of students in schools — from elementary through college level — and have developed ways of working for the specific subject matters that usually appear in their respective curricula; we have distinguished the various demands required by the various readings (which we labeled R5, R6, etc.) and suggested exercises that make students meet these demands, so that literacy follows the eradication of illiteracy. Caleb Gattegno


Literacy In America

We are well into the second half of the seventies, which was announced by the late Commissioner of Education Allen as the decade for the elimination of illiteracy in the United States, and no progress, or very little, has been reported. Perhaps things have even become worse because of the many problems in cities where personnel cuts have been imposed because of financial crises. Of all the people in the field, we are perhaps the only ones who have seen the problem of reading as one that has been solved and who consider that the stress for the implementation of the solution has been put in the wrong place. In the following two articles we want to reiterate our position. Since it results from an exhaustive study of the challenges of reading in a number of languages, including English, and is optimistic because we have found that teaching reading successfully is both easy and not time consuming, we hope it will not be dismissed lightly. In the first article of this Newsletter we showed where the impediments are to be found. Today, with a shortage of funds in school district chests, we may have an audience. Our technology is effective, inexpensive and currently available: it only needs to be considered seriously to be known for what it is. There are classrooms in this country where incredible things are happening with 5 and 6 year olds and which so few people take the trouble to go and see. There are a number of examples of stubborn clinic cases which have been resolved in no time after years of failure, when the subjects


On Literacy

have been exposed to our approach, and yet reading specialists turn their face the other way and refuse to become acquainted with it. The leadership of the IRA has systematically ignored what any teacher with even a little teaching experience acknowledges to be immediately perceivable. The state of literacy in the United States is what is is because vested interests are preventing a solution from being examined seriously and objectively. And we have no solution to this political challenge. Still let us briefly tell our story to our readers.


Literacy For Beginners

There is a kindergarten class in a public school in Harlem where five year olds astonish the few visitors who make a special trip there to see them work with the extent of their mastery of the reading, writing, and spelling of English. Some people who visit this class, however, are so dominated by their preconceptions about what young children can do that they refuse to believe their eyes; and instead of taking steps to understand how it is possible, they dismiss it with a comment like: “Surely this must be staged!” There is a school in the Bronx that considers it a top priority to enable all of its children to read before the end of the second grade. This school, located in one of the most poverty-stricken areas of New York City, sees to it that even the non-readers who are transferred to their school spend a short period of time with reading teachers so that they are well on their way to literacy before they are assigned to a class room or to a reading group. There is a school in Duval County, Florida, that states: “We have failed if all of our second-graders are not readers.” There are teachers in that school who are trained specially to work with the most demanding of students, and they volunteer their preparation periods so that third grade teachers do not receive any nonreaders. It seems to me that these three schools are making some statement about the problem of literacy in the United States. They are telling us by their actions that when they teach reading, they know well enough what they are doing that almost all of the students in their care become


On Literacy

literate. In their eyes, there is no reason to assume that illiteracy must continue and that classes of remediation must always be necessary. Since I worked with the teachers in these schools, I feel confident in reporting that what they share is the certainty that any child who has learned to speak can learn to read — and that he/she can learn joyfully in much less time than the majority of reading specialists would think possible. If we talked to the teachers in the schools mentioned above, however, they would say (with me) that they had not always held their present view of the problem of literacy. They would say that, at one time, they too believed that children failed (but not their teachers); that reading was an extremely demanding intellectual task, unreachable for 15-20% of their students; that it was somehow helpful to label children dyslexic, or learning disabled; that children needed some special “readiness” before they were able to learn to read. We had to be woken up! 1 We had to stop looking at the young children we meet as lacking this or that, as being an incomplete adult. We had to study in a serious manner the functionings used by our students to learn so competently so many things before coming to school. In particular, we found that in learning to speak, all children demonstrate that they know how to extract, abstract, transform, stress and ignore. We had to learn to recast our teaching so that we begin with what our students know how to do and use their strengths and their intelligence, not only their memory. In the problem of literacy it is not a question of whether or not students in public schools are equipped to learn to read. Four, five, and six year olds who use the language of their environment to understand others and to express themselves show that they are equipped. A real question is: “How well equipped am I, their teacher, to provide opportunities for them to learn to read — opportunities which they perceive as being vital for them? How skilled am I in presenting special activities which


Literacy For Beginners

strike the learners as being accessible, but challenging, and end up with their knowing how to read? ” 2 We had to study the various meanings covered by the word reading and to become clear on a thorough and systematic approach to teaching the complex of skills involved in the different kinds of reading. We had to acknowledge that it was our commitment to tradition or our preconceptions that made us believe that the alphabet needed to be taught before reading; that children would not enjoy books unless there were lots of pictures in them; that consonants could be sounded without being associated with another sound — that of a vowel! We had to find that the most primitive of all the disciplines of reading is that one must say only what one sees: that is, that specific sounds must be made when looking at specific designs. In the Words in Color approach, the games associated with this level of learning to read (called RO) use only vowels and their combinations. Many people consider this activity to be controversial since they do not understand how children can be engrossed in reading “words” which cannot be associated with meaning. But these games can be played enthusiastically very early; they take little time and leave students with a functioning which respects that, in English, “words” are horizontal sequences of closely drawn designs, written above lines from left to right, with spaces between them, and on a succession of lines from top to bottom. Still, even in RO, teachers can be distracted from the demands of learning to read and begin to “teach” or “drill” the sounds associated with certain signs. If this is the case, students get bored and fail to acquire the discipline of saying what they see and, therefore, the freedom to move ahead quickly. 3 We had to understand that Words in Color is not a philosophy or a program for teaching reading. Instead, we had to see that it is an approach which makes available instruments — techniques and


On Literacy

materials with which we could make certain desirable things happen.* For instance, some techniques make our students aware of how to read with the melody of their speech, whereas the equal spaces between words suggest that the reader needs to pause equally between every two words. The pointer allowed us to make completely obvious to learners the link between the spacial arrangement of print and the temporal nature of speech. The Fidel charts made perceptible the truth of the orthography of English, and there was no longer any need to rely upon phonetic rules which always had exceptions. Not only did we understand the problem of learning how to read, but we also had the instruments to make the demands of reading understandable to all of our students and hence all students but a very small number of special cases. 4 Most of our students learned to read quickly and easily, and with these children it was impossible for us to study how their learning could be described. With the more stubborn students, however, we have had a test of whether or not we really knew what we were doing. There were days when we would get stuck and be baffled. On these occasions, we had to admit to ourselves that we did not manage to make perceptible to these students what reading required of them. But it is these children who have made us become more skilled, more flexible, and more sensitive as teachers. It was the demanding students who made us realize that when we do the “right” things as teachers, they do the “right” things as learners. There are schools where the perpetual remedial classes in reading are not needed because teachers of beginning readers see to it that their students become literate. Since this is the case, the problem of literacy in this country can be stated in the following manner: •

Can we educate teachers, parents, and administrators to formulate the problem of literacy in a way that takes into account these phenomena?


The TV materials called “pop ups” present the same instruments as adapted to the medium.


Literacy For Beginners


Can we prepare teachers to work in certain ways so that all kinds of students they meet will become literate?

We say that this is possible, and our efforts have been in that direction. Katherine Mitchell


Literacy For Older Ones

A twenty-four year old man recently came to our clinic to learn how to read. I met him with no other assumption about his problem than that he (or perhaps someone else) thought he had one. Because he was an adult and appeared to be alert and intelligent, I took a few minutes at the start of the session to outline for him the challenge of be coming literate in English. It seemed, by the attentive expression on his face, that he was able to relate to my saying that: 1) no one can read without accepting the discipline of uttering only those sounds which correspond to what one sees — and of saying them in a determined order; 2) the names of the 26 letters of the English alphabet overlap only minimally with the sounds that have to be uttered in reading — and that to have a clear picture of the content to be learned one must recognize that the same sign (letter or group of letters) may have various sounds associated with it and that the same sound may be associated with a variety of signs. To be sure that this second point was understood clearly, I brought to the student’s attention the Fidel charts that were displayed in the room. When he looked at these eight charts, he could see that, in terms of content, his challenge wasn’t to memorize thousands of words, but to know the approximately 300 signs collected there into columns according to how they are sounded. To inform him and myself about how much of this content he already knew, I silently indicated with a pointer some signs and sequences of signs and asked him to respond. The first thing I touched was l (as it appears amongst the vowels in the top half of the array), and he quite reasonably said, “el,” since this 15

On Literacy

particular printing of the personal pronoun is identical to a common printing of the letter he named. I saw this as an opportunity to determine how easily he would consciously accept the ambiguities of English orthography and, therefore, touched i (as it appears in the same column). I chose that one because it is one of the five instances where the name of the letter and the sound of a sign overlap. When the student responded appropriately, I told him that all the signs in that column were sounded similarly and asked him immediately to respond to l , which he did correctly this time. I touched a few other signs in the same column, such as igh, ie, eye, etc., saving the spelling is for last. When I showed that one, he said the usual word, “is.” I turned to one of the twenty word charts that were up on one wall, pointed to the word “is” and told him, “This is what you’ve just said — and it’s printed in two colors because it has two sounds. What is the first sound you hear when you say this word? ” He responded with the name of the first letter, so I emphasized, “That’s the name of the letter — but what sound do you hear?” He whispered the word to himself, then responded correctly out loud. At this point, I indicated on the Fidel the sign i as it appears in a different column of the Fidel and I told him, “This is the one you use at the beginning of the word, ‘is.’ Now, what do you say for this one? ” (again showing the sign, is). He said the correct sound, with a question in his voice. So I wrote on the chalkboard, land (which he read correctly) and then put is just before and next to it. He immediately responded, “island.” Back at the Fidel, I touched l and he said it. I moved the pointer to another column and touched the sign, owe (sounded like the name of the letter, “o”), and he uttered that one without any hesitancy. Then I touched you in another column. After a few moments’ silence and a few shakes of his head, he said that he didn’t know it. When I asked him to try, he said “wa. . . woo. . . why. . .,” and the matter was dropped for the time being. Once it was established that the proper response to my indicating a sequence of two signs on the Fidel was the word, “at, ” I ascertained that he already knew what to say for most of the consonants, as he easily responded to the following sequences of signs, which I indicated rapidly with the pointer: pat, tat, sat, mat, fat, vat, dat, that (here he


Literacy For Older Ones

made an error — “tat” — but was able to correct himself), yat, lat, wat, kat, rat, bat, hat, gat, chat, jat, and even quat. Only ten minutes of the session had passed by this time and of course much more detail could be written about that short segment. Perhaps, however, enough material has been presented to give the reader some idea of how I reached the following conclusions: 1

Our student knew a lot about reading, but his knowledge was scattered and not based on a clear understanding of the challenge.

2 He would enter into a new challenge and could quickly make sense of it. 3 He was unsure of himself as a reader. 4 He was confused about the names of the letters and the sounds he had to make for them. 5 He could be careless about what he saw and said. A conclusion of another kind which came to me and which I wanted to test, was that he could be completely literate in a small number of hours of instruction with a few more spent by himself in practice. Some of these conclusions I knew were correct, and to launch him on his way, I pointed to the word, “sugar, ”on one of the word charts (after having drawn his attention to the fact that the shape, s, appears in four separate columns on the Fidel and that one of those columns is headed by sh). He looked at it, shook his head several times, and after a few seconds said in a low voice, “swear.” I asked him to take the responsibility to look more carefully, adding, “You already know how to begin — if you stop thinking that this word is hard and if you only look at it, really look, I know you can read it without any help.” I then waited for three or four minutes, breaking my silence only to ask him to work on it out loud so I could hear what he was doing and once or twice to encourage him to try again when he seemed about to give up. After several less careful attempts, he said, “sugar.” As he turned to look at me, I read, in the wide-eyed expression on his face and the falling of his shoulders, a release of tension and a certain amount of surprise. In 17

On Literacy

order to let him know a) that he had many criteria available to him and b) that he could find the exact places where he still needed help from the outside (because of the ambiguities of the English spelling), I asked him to read one or two more words on the word charts which contained some of those ambiguities. Because the words were printed in color — where one color represents one sound regardless of the letters — he didn’t have to be told anything. Rather, by referring to other words he knew by sight, comparing their colors to the ones he wanted to utter, listening to his voice to separate and identify the sounds he needed, and finally reproducing them at the right moment in the new words, he was entirely independent of me and free to sort things out for himself. Having established the ground rules that he would not be helped except where he needed it, we turned to the last pages of Words in Color Book 2 (printed in black on white) and he decoded “logarithm, ” “character, ” “chef, ” “michigan, ” “orchestra, ” and “chrome. ” For each, he only needed to be told in which word or column on the charts he could find the sign which was ambiguous (he knew “chef” without any assistance). Then these words were combined with some others that were chosen on the basis of the likelihood that he would either recognize them or have no difficulty in sounding them out. Without any prompting, he read the following sentence, which I wrote on a piece of paper, with all of the fluency of his spoken language: “The funny character will play his chrome trumpet with the orchestra in Michigan.” Then, without referring to the original version, he was asked to write the whole sentence himself and see if he could do it without any errors. Four or five attempts were needed as he sorted out mistakes which ranged from those which were careless and gave evidence of some lingering confusion (e.g., “wthi” for “with” or “trmpet” for “trumpet”) to those which were entirely reasonable and showed him to be quickly finding a firm foundation for his attempts (e.g., “caracter” or “orchastre”). His last version was perfect and was produced without reference to anything except the contents of his mind. Having accomplished this, he stated, “Before I thought I might be able to do it — now I know I can.”


Literacy For Older Ones

While it is true of course, that no two remedial students are the same, this case is representative in several important ways: 1

He was unclear about some basic matters — e.g., that English orthography is riddled with two kinds of ambiguities; that contact with one’s voice is primary in reading and spelling; that memory is involved only to the extent that one has to retain the content displayed on the Fidel.

2 He had some bad habits which interfered — e.g., he was quick to guess, relying only on the first letter, and perhaps one other, for a clue; he gave up easily; he looked to another person to see if he was right even when he had all the criteria to know the answer. 3 He was not certain that he could become literate. 4 He could quickly be made to recognize and consciously utilize his existing knowledge and skill. Since each of these four aspects is a matter of awareness and since awarenesses can be reached in a short time, one right after the other (sometimes simultaneously), our suggestion to other teachers is that their diagnosis and instruction be focused in a similar manner. By concentrating on the awarenesses that are needed, teachers can furthermore obtain: that their students recognize their own true capacity and perhaps correctly identify the real reason for past failure; that they shed their idea of themselves as people who have to be defeated by words; that they find the source of energy which will make them eager to accept their responsibilities to work carefully and to practice on their own until facility is reached. These are some of the main concerns that we have, and so we have adopted techniques and materials that are appropriate (called Words in Color). Since our approach is flexible and always guided by what the learner is doing, we are successful in remediating case after case, with people of any age from seven on, even when they have been rejected by other special clinics. As long as a person doesn’t have a strong investment in not learning how to read (e.g., because this draws some attention from others which would otherwise be lost), we know that


On Literacy

remediation should take no longer than 20 hours at the most, even where the student seems to know very little or when the problem has persisted for many years. If the students are in small groups, it could take even less time since there is much they will learn from each other (provided of course that they are willing to and that the teacher knows how to make the learning visible). In schools where people work in a similar way, illiteracy has been eliminated in a matter of months. One such place is a third through sixth grade school in a ghetto area in the Bronx, where the months of November through May of the school year, 1971-72, were enough to see all but 4 or 5 out of 120 students, who had been chosen because they were the most challenging ones, learn how to read and write. All that was required was the technology — in the form of Words in Color — and a few people who knew how to implement it. The technology can easily be reproduced in sufficient quantities for remedial students everywhere to be made literate in English. All that remains for other schools, whole districts, cities, and even the nation to provide are a sufficient number of interested teachers. Ted Swartz


Spanish Literacy

In the Spanish-speaking world there exists the pressing reality of the problem of illiteracy. We are not going to concern ourselves in this article with the political or social factors that caused it, nor with those which perpetuate it. Instead our approach will be to consider two fundamental aspects: the human one and the technical one, because they are the only ones capable of taking care of the problem in an effective way and of leading to its eradication. The illiterate masses of today have at hand media services that can reach the most remote places and which their ancestors never dreamed of. Also the members of these masses, like illiterates from other times, are equipped with “all� that is humanly necessary to undertake the learning of reading, that is, their spoken language which they have practiced for a number of years and their mental capacities at work in many other areas but that have not yet been made active in the field of reading. In modern technology, the television industry has developed the most sophisticated means for producing specific impacts on the viewer, and in this way it has contributed, and does contribute, in shaping society. In fact, for many years and in many places, television has been an active agent in educational programs some of which have attempted often to achieve massive literacy. This being the case, we have to ask ourselves why it is that television, if it is so effective, has produced no satisfactory results. It seems that there is a missing link between the electromagnetic waves from the screen and the illiterate spectator. Consequently, there is a need for programs for literacy that force the spectator (completely and consciously) to make use of his inner functionings, for which the images on the screen are the triggers.


On Literacy

It is necessary then to make viewers aware of their own role in their learning, a learning that, though appearing to come from without, can only become real when it is truly experienced from within. A program which intends to eradicate and not only to palliate illiteracy must act on the basis of reaching individual awareness. If we consider the tremendous potential for reading that is contained in the domain of the spoken language and experience that any illiterate person of any age has, we can see the importance of undertaking a job that makes this potential emerge to a conscious level. Television is the vehicle to do this work and can carry it out in a short period of time thanks to the “Leocolor� program. In looking at a television set, an illiterate person participating in the program receives a series of visual and auditory impacts. The visual impacts come from signs on the screen that have a certain dynamics (and personality), while the auditory impacts are received a fraction of a second after the visual, as the voice of an invisible teacher who produces the totality of what needs to be heard. This succession of impacts, knit into a whole by precise techniques, superimposes itself upon underlying elements within the viewer’s inventory of the Spanish language so that they surface together at the conscious level. But there is more than this because the individual has meanwhile had the opportunity to extract from the visual impact several valid conclusions: 1

that the signs appear on the screen in a determined direction from left to right which he is obliged to follow;

2 that the signs form groups and come one after the other in a horizontal line; 3 that for each sign or group of signs a voice is superimposed so that the viewer associates what he hears with what he sees; 4 that the signs or groups of signs are separated by blank, spaces and, when the sounds for these groups are uttered


Spanish Literacy

by the voice, he can recognize some of them as words be longing to his own everyday language; 5 that whenever he finds that the signs he has already identified reappear (in the same or in other combinations), he recognizes them and, at the same time, he recognizes himself as being capable of uttering them distinctly; 6 that he recognizes himself as able to apply the acquired experience to other, similar signs when and if these groups of signs are met in other circumstances; 7 that he recognizes himself as engaged in an inner search of transferring this recent acquisition to expand his grasp of other words that are part of his spoken language. These are some of the aspects of the awarenesses developed by the apprentice reader. From this state the newly literate continues to use himself consciously, when viewing subsequent segments of the film, which introduce new elements now seen by him to be surmountable challenges. The expansion of the viewer’s reading power goes on as more and more connections are made by him in his inner life and as he is able to integrate more elements into it. When statements appear to replace words, another kind of thinking takes place in his mind: grouping, rhythm and melody acquire the value of a presence and the identification between what has been “read” and what has been “spoken” becomes evident, as they are two insoluble aspects of the same reality. We have briefly outlined above some of the work on literacy that could be carried by means of television. We have also wanted to indicate a way of working in the teaching of reading which respects the total participation of the individual as an able human being and not as a passive receiver of information. Every day, it becomes more evident that for the Spanish-speaking world, the need to eradicate illiteracy is more urgent. This need brings with it great hopes for advancement in many fields but, at the same time, it supposes the expenditure of immense sums of money that


On Literacy

many countries cannot afford. However, efforts continue and experiments are repeated constantly. Our position in the field of literacy is that there are technical solutions, which are valid in any socio-political context where the problem of illiteracy exists. The cost of our solution is very small in comparison with the amounts invested everywhere without making much of a dent in the problem. We suggest a sound utilization of television in order to bring to the masses programs of literacy, and we propose specifically the use of “LECOLOR”. This is a film which takes strictly into account the reality of the process of individual learning based on the learner’s awareness and employing precise techniques that with scientific rigor lead viewers towards a functioning in awareness and, consequently, towards the acquisition of reading. The public can derive many benefits from the use of this program on television. First, as each viewer develops a capacity to function, local groups of newly literates can be found under the supervision of some concerned teachers or tutors who can help them practice and insure their mastery of the written language. This in a short time will make it possible to advance towards the consolidation of the solution of the problem. Second the economic advantage resulting from the low cost of the program and its ease of implementation may lead to the integrating of the masses into the active life of society, making contributions not possible before. The practical terms for a possible organization leading to a solution could be as follows: let us assume that the life of one copy of the film “LEOCOLOR” were not longer than the number of showings that can reach 1500 illiterates in a region of high illiteracy. Let us divide this population into groups of viewers ranging in numbers from 15 to 50. Then the segments of “LEOCOLOR” would not require more than 100 to 500 showings, respectively to serve this population. Since there are only 15 segments to cover all the ground demanded by the challenge of reading and writing Spanish, it is reasonable to allocate two weeks, at the maximum, to expose 50 illiterates to the program three times 24

Spanish Literacy

before moving on to another location. Tutors would be needed for the follow up work, this time with people who have made sense of all the hurdles of reading. Hence one team of eradicators of illiteracy can attend to the needs of 1500 people over 20 weeks with “LEOCOLOR” as the instrument. If 100 teams are at work a population of at least 200, 000 can be served in one year at a cost in materials of less than $1 per person. In large urban centers the same effect can be obtained through one print of the film by using existing channels. This would reduce the cost per person to a few cents. It is obvious after this calculation that in a short period of time and at a minimal cost it is possible to reach the objective of eradicating illiteracy as no one has dreamed of before. It must be pointed out, as a reminder, that television alone cannot accomplish this result. There must also be a correct mobilization of each person’s mental functionings which can be obtained through the awareness of the process of his learning. Patricia Iniguez


Literacy - The Indian Challenge

In looking at the literacy situation in India we find that: 1

of the millions of the adult population, approximately 70% cannot read and write;

2 in the last 25 years or so various attempts have been made to eradicate illiteracy, but the progress has been so slow and the results achieved so uncertain that it generates overall a grim view; 3 the problem is huge and complex, the conditions demanding, and the chances of success slim. In this brief article we propose a working solution to this problem. We know that the Indian challenge can be met adequately because of our pedagogically sound approach to reading and writing (called Words in Color for English). This approach incorporates — in the form of materials and techniques of teaching — the yields of the study of the psychology of human learning, of language learning as a special activity of the human mind, and of the study of the spoken and written forms of any language as isomorphic systems. Teaching is guided by learning at each step in Words in Color, and we make the learners autonomous in their learning and responsible for it from the start. This is achieved in a short time and retained for good.


On Literacy

We propose that the use of films through mass media be included as one of the means of meeting the challenge. Television, which is already being used in Indian cities and villages for informational, cultural and entertainment purposes, can indeed be an effective instrument in the learning of reading and writing. Mobile units can make the films available to areas where television has not yet reached. We all know from our own experience that the impact of what is projected on the screen can compel a direct and active participation of the viewers who get involved in what they see. Under a strong impact, in their changed state of being, people cannot but be mobilized to do something with themselves and their functionings. Carefully prepared educational films, which display the dynamics of reading and writing, successfully mobilize the viewers so that the result is that they learn to read and write by being exposed through these films to “happenings” which orient their energies in the required direction. The use of the films is not being suggested as a substitute for teachers. Films are to be used as a powerful tool to help the students’ learning. What is more significant is that the purpose of the films is to heighten the viewers’ awareness of their own learning power and to put them inescapably in touch with what they are willing to learn. The films are there to make visible with clarity and precision the dynamic elements involved in reading and writing. This films can do best. For example, it is a fact that, through certain changes in shape, letters can be seen as transforming themselves into other letters. Although this could be displayed on the blackboard clumsily, it can be made obvious in an entertaining, inspiring, aesthetic, and precise way through the films. It has been found that animated colored cartoons are the right answer for creating the impact on the viewers that the transformation of, say, the letter makes it appear as by placing the two parts of its body in different positions ( ), and together become by getting closer and closer till they join ( ), becomes by the loss of a limb ( ), becomes by the disappearance of the mid-bar ( ), and so on. The purpose of this kind of film is not merely to have the viewers learn to write these particular letters; the important message conveyed to the


Literacy - The Indian Challenge

learners is that anyone who can produce on paper a few strokes and curves is capable of producing many written signs of his language. Another segment of the film shows the shape appearing on the screen in yellow. A voice gives it its sound value (u as in up) as it stands there to be introduced. A white vertical bar appears in a corner and seems to notice the presence of . It wishes to be near and moves towards it. As soon as the white bar takes its place beside the yellow , the yellow turns white. For the whole white shape the voice says a (as in father). The shape mints itself out of and stands apart. To assert its identity, it is yellow. On the top of the bar of the white shape appears a gradual growth and the whole sign now becomes and changes color, to light brown. There is an expectancy generated that the sound given to it must change too. And it does. What is being brought to the awareness of the viewers is that some parts of the letters may change and others may remain constant, but when the color changes, the sound value associated with it must change. The learners are discovering that the activity of writing is not difficult: they only have to learn to be alert and to observe the right changes here and there. They are finding out that reading is easy since all they are asked to do is to retain the links between sounds and shapes (fortified by colors) and say what they see. If they see the shapes and both in color blue, and in white or and in red, they are to sound these pairs the same way even if their shapes look different. We can illustrate the use of color by taking the words and . The shapes and both are light green since both have the same sound, even though they look somewhat different. In the word the shape is light green and yellow (yellow to indicate the inherent which is to be sounded) and the shape is dark green. But in the word , the reversed combination of the same shapes, the shape is light green, and the shape is dark green and yellow. The clues for correct reading are all there, and the learners read correctly because their perception of what is in front of them tells them what to do. One of the sections of the film introduces the games of transformation. These games are played with algebraic operations which are part of the


On Literacy

spoken language as well. For example, the word becomes by substitution, then by another substitution and by insertion. Or, the word can be read as by reversal if and are considered two sounds. Such exercises are very powerful in bringing to the awareness of the learners how the words in a language are generated. Playing these games allows the learners to gain the insight that on the basis of a little knowledge they can generate a lot of language on their own. For example, with the knowledge of eight vowels: and their “matras” and just five consonants they can read, write and create sentences like

As new consonants and the rest of the vowel signs are gradually introduced and added to what the learners have already mastered, it is not difficult to imagine that sooner rather than later the creative powers of the learners will reach the point of explosion and make them feel free to use their reading and writing skills for their own purposes. The behavior of the Hindi script and the linguistic complexities involved in encoding and decoding Hindi are carefully sifted and systematically contained in 15 or so short segments of films, each 2 to 2½ minutes long. These segments can be viewed and reviewed by the learners. Through their perception of what is there on the screen, the learners get a chance to be sensitized to the subtleties of their written language. Following this, they work with tutors in smaller groups for an hour or so each day. We have evidence that Spanish-speaking and English-speaking adult illiterates become literate in a few weeks by


Literacy - The Indian Challenge

working in this way. We see no reason why it will not be so for Hindispeaking people. Tutors can be invited and given a special job to perform. They learn from their students’ insights and mistakes what sort of exercises and how much practice each one needs in order to reach mastery of what they are engaged in learning. The tutor’s work consists in involving the learners in the activities which will enable them to spontaneously put into use what they have learned. Since reading and writing are skills, like any other skill, practice is required to achieve mastery. Besides the films, sixteen colored word charts (which are already available) give practice through a series of suggested exercises. There are three primers with contents related to the contents of the charts. The primers are in black and white with no pictures to distract the reader. Students are required to write in black on white from the start, even when they are reading the words presented in color. Color is there as a help and only for as long as it is needed by the individual learners. It is systematically ignored and completely dropped by the learners themselves when they no more have use for it. It is essentially a pedagogical device. Emphasis is placed on reading with the speed of speech. By insisting on this we have restored to reading correct phrasing, stresses and melody from the start. The films and the other materials can of course be used in schools with children to ensure that by, say, the end of their first six months in their primary school, they achieve a thorough mastery of the skills of reading and writing. We have described here films and charts for the Hindi speaking population. Similar materials can be produced in other Indian languages. Training of local teachers in the use of materials and techniques of teaching in this new way is needed. Teachers can be prepared in a short time to work with other teachers and/or tutors to carry on literacy work in and outside schools.


On Literacy

We reiterate that the Indian challenge can be met adequately because an educational solution to the problem exists. The implementation of this solution, however, depends on certain other factors, the main one being the willingness of the authorities to put their energies into bringing technical and organizational components together. It seems to us that this is the responsibility of those people in India who are supposed to solve this problem. Shakti Datta Gattegno


Literacy In Mandarin Or Other Dialects

Even if there are very few illiterates in China, as the government officers and reading teachers announce, there is a challenge in learning to read the Chinese dialects simply because memory plays such an important role today in this learning, and memory is our weakest faculty. Any proposal that would assist in replacing rote learning by a use of intelligence and imagination would: 1

inject new life into learning to read,

2 open the mind of learners to the beauties of a system that took centuries to be developed, 3 save perhaps months or even years in the process, if not for all certainly for many learners. Because for so long it has been agreed that spending two, three or more years learning a sufficient number of characters was normal and because for so long learning and remembering were synonyms, it is unlikely that questions like the ones we asked ourselves have been in circulation in reading circles among Chinese educators. Looking at the characters as shapes is an intriguing challenge. Although all generalizations about them would break down because of the many principles and criteria that have been used over such a long period, it is possible to adopt ways of presenting a succession of characters that can help students more than the existing ways.


On Literacy

When we look at the traditional teaching of writing in China over the centuries, we see that a small number of strokes have been isolated whose combination and repetition can produce any one of the characters according to the rules of calligraphy in China. When we think of the needs of: newcomers to reading and writing of any age, we may feel that if we could associate both of them in some economical manner and reach a mastery of both in as short a time as good learning and teaching permit, we would satisfy the demands of most interested educators. To do this we may be more concerned with the morphology of the characters than with frequency of the words they represent in ordinary speech or the curriculum that one textbook writer has produced in order to teach reading and/ or writing. The principle of our suggestion is that it is economical to begin with simple forms and, through various easily understandable transformations to produce very quickly a sufficient number of complex forms to take care of the complicated characters. The only real problem is: can the authors of such an approach have enough imagination to produce a scheme that 1) holds the attention of students all the time, and 2) permits them to compete with the students who have followed other routes? If this can be done, the new scheme deserves to become one of those in use. But if it is true that other benefits as mentioned above can result from its implementation, it may deserve some attention, i.e., to be closely examined and tested. Let us present its main features since in this short article we cannot do much more. The 17 basic strokes for writing being

we begin with one of them, — (yī:one), then doubling and tripling it we get (èr:two) and (sān:three). If we introduce o (líng:zero) we have at our disposal the string of numerals to discipline young children (or even much older parents) in the act of reading, i.e. making definite


Literacy In Mandarin Or Other Dialects

sounds for definite signs when these are aligned so that an order on the line (which will remain the same from now on) asks for a specific order of utterance. Thus

can be read as we transcribe them. In addition to the words which are characters made solely by the strokes selected, such as , now another combination of two of the strokes will produce (tǔ:earth, land, dirt, local, unsophisticated), (shì: a scholar, an officer, a soldier), (gōng: labor, a laborer, a job), (gān: to oppose, a shield, to seek, to arrange, to concern, dry), (shàng: above, previous, to ascend), (chǎng: a workshop or factory), (jǐng: a well), (kāi: to open), : (wáng: king, a common family name), (yú: to proceed, on, to, with, from, etc. ) and many others. To make students independent we color the characters in a code we use universally whenever we consider triggering sounds through signs. The color code is introduced by the teacher via what we call a Fidel, a set of colored rectangles that correspond to all the sounds of Mandarin. Practice on the Fidel is a special game in which the teacher points to these rectangles in certain orders to produce the triggers for the sounds of the language. For example, violet-white is for na, and white-violet for an. We give a model for the Fidel in the following rectangle. Mandarin Fidel (Romanization based on Spelling System)


On Literacy

By systematic progression, it is possible in about one hour to master the use of the Fidel as a support for words and for sentences. The latter can be as complex as one wishes and will be custom-tailored for the various age groups one meets. In considering the morphological approach to reading Chinese, we provide on wall charts a number of characters which we select according to our principle. Chart 1 displays 40 of the characters that we consider the simplest. Some of them are used as strokes only. They are colored as suggested on the Fidel so that sounds are associated with these signs, allowing students to count only on themselves to sort them out. Not only can students see the colors and the tones marked on the charts and, therefore, retain them through practice rather than memorization, they can also produce sentences with some of them. Our choice of characters may not permit students (particularly young ones) to produce very exciting statements but, because they have to be creative, whatever they produce will serve them well. In the primers accompanying the charts, a number of examples in black and white can be used to provide guidance. The successive charts contain characters which make explicit one morphological principle after another. For example, “addition� of one or two more basic strokes to a set of previously met characters, with, if 36

Literacy In Mandarin Or Other Dialects

need be, very slight alteration, is a powerful principle in generating the content of charts 2-5, e.g.

The more or less 200 simple forms on those charts constitute the majority of the radicals for modern writing. With this foundation, the students quickly launch themselves into the production of compound characters, some of which form the content of charts 6-12. With the formation of these more complex characters, the students’ sentences also increase in complexity. Several principles we have used in the composition of these characters proved to be most interesting and productive. For example: 1

Enclosure: placing one shape inside another, e.g.

2 Combinations of 2 or more simple forms, placing them one on top of another,


On Literacy

e. g. 3 Arrangement of 2 or more elements side by side horizontally, e. g. 4 When doubling, write the same unit twice with one on top of the other, or side by side, e. g. When tripling, the same unit is written three times and arranged in triangular shapes, e. g. Because of the nature of their construction, the compound characters, though having a number of strokes, require less detailed demonstration. Provided the ground work of the formation of the simpler forms is well taken care of through step-by-step illustrations and sufficient practices, a student can now learn to read and write the characters needed for his purposes. Instead of being overwhelmed by the formidable task of having to memorize a sufficient number of characters, the students can experience involvement and enjoy themselves at work on this challenging adventure. Not only can they achieve this within a shorter period of time, they can also receive other benefits. The energy and time saved by not having to learn the characters by rote can be used to develop other qualities in oneself. The “drudgery� (as many of us remember) of the exercise of calligraphy can be replaced by and appreciated as, an aesthetic and worthwhile undertaking at a much higher level and much earlier in life. This way of teaching reading may not be required for eradicating illiteracy if none exists, but it can certainly serve to brighten the lives of school children faced with the immense task of integrating up to 6,000 characters required of sixth graders. Kuo Shiow-Ley


News Items

1 We have just published a new leaflet on Words in Color (R) which tells readers how the teaching of reading can be guided step by step by the learning of reading. It is a free leaflet sent on request. Readers who are asked to lecture on Words in Color may ask for copies for their audiences. 2 A similar free leaflet for Leocolor weeks’ time. Ask for it.


will be available in a few

3 Since the ten worksheets for ESL-The Silent Way (R) were out of print, we took the opportunity to revise the material. It is now available in its new version for $1.00 a set. 4 A few sets of Algebricks (R) made of plastics were delivered a few days ago. They represent the first production we have found acceptable in 23 years. Washable, stable in length and in colors, these rods are light and make a dull sound when falling on wood. This last property will be preferred by some users particularly if many of their students use rods at their desks. They are available for mathematics or language teaching. 5 A new book on the Silent Way has been made ready for the printers. In the series “The Common Sense of Teaching” which we inaugurated with a book on mathematics, this volume dedicated to foreign languages will contain a completely recast presentation of the Silent Way in eleven chapters written by Dr. Caleb Gattegno. Then, in


On Literacy

four appendices readers will find the adaptations of Chapter 7 to French, Italian, Mandarin and Spanish. These are written by colleagues teaching one of these languages in the manner presented in the other chapters and offering in their contribution what could not be inferred from them. In this way, this text will serve at least four more groups of foreign language teachers beyond those for ESL, by providing them with material they might find very useful. Publication date is early September. Copies can be reserved now, selling price is $5.95 per copy (plus sales tax where applicable and 5% for postage and handling). 6 A Pre-Pilot Project on Teaching Foreign Languages Through Television The seventeen hours of English lessons taught and video taped by Dr. Gattegno in Paris at IBM-France finally arrived in the United States. Although my impressions are based on an incomplete viewing of the program (only about a fourth), I received a very powerful impact and believe that they represent, on more than one level, extremely instructive material. One of the most striking features of the tapes is that not only is the teacher silent, he practically disappears. His hands, his pointer, become the only masters of the situation. His face is seen only very occasionally. The result is that there are very few distractions. The students in the class appear to be connected with the language they are learning only through instruments (charts, rods, etc.) and each other. This allows the viewer to join in since he too can be connected with the language instruments shown on the screen and the other learners. Despite the fact that a number of technical problems are still partially unresolved, especially in the areas of making the instruments and the linguistic situations unambiguously visible on the screen, it is evident that the intuition of exploiting students’ errors, by showing them on the screen so as to invite the viewer’s participation, is absolutely correct.


News Items

This sense of being alone with the language and yet supported by fellow “strugglers” is heightened by some powerful techniques. For example, one can see the pointer wandering about the charts while simultaneously in a medallion in the lower right hand corner of the screen, a student working hard at uttering the sentence just tapped. Or in another example, the camera keeps switching focus from a student to the linguistic situation with rods being talked about. Other techniques impressed me as being very powerful, like the “overlay” technique, in which the image of the charts is superimposed on that of the class, allowing the viewer to see both at the same time. These tapes are, by no means, a finished product, but they represent a mine of riches for those who want to study and understand the enormous complexities involved in attempting to truly take care of the unknown learner through television. Cecilia Bartoli Perrault 7 Three One-Day Dissemination Conferences at Educational Solutions In our arrangements with the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE), H. E. W., it was stipulated that we had to find some procedure to share with college level teachers what we had found in working at Staten Island Community College last summer. The formula we adopted consisted of inviting faculty from over 100 institutions to participate in meetings, one devoted to the teaching of writing (February 25th), one to the teaching of reading (March 10th), and one to the teaching of mathematics (March 26th). Each of these events attracted a large number of people, and we had to refuse some of them because of the limitation of space. Unfortunately, not all callers were serious and we ended up with more unoccupied seats than we wanted, while interested people were denied a place. Since we had considerable raw material in the 54 hours of video tape we made at SICC last summer, we presented at each conference, a onehour summary of the lessons in the related area and, at two of the conferences, a one-hour selection of feedback sessions with the 41

On Literacy

students. These sessions were a feature of the experiment which gave us evidence that we were able to affect our students. At the writing conference we first presented the feedback tape and only after a certain discussion did we show the tape on the writing classes. At the reading conference we did the opposite and at the math we did not show the feedback sessions at all. While for our guests it was what we had done that mattered most, for us it was whether our evidence could reach the public and somehow affect the participants as we hoped. We cannot say what the public took away, but we know that some people returned to the following conferences and expressed growth because of their participation. Since we had prepared a booklet called “Suggestions” which spelled out what we believed could be transmitted to others and had left time at the beginning of the conference for people to become acquainted with them, we planned to enliven that reading with illustrations from the tapes. This approach apparently did not work as planned, at least in the first conference where some hostile participants—as usual more vocal than the ones affected — attempted to judge the experiment by expressing disapproval of the video tapes presented, or rather of some features of the tapes. However it was more effective on the second, and still more on the third occasion. We learned once again how difficult it is to please an unknown group of people. From those who were more interested in gaining something than in asserting themselves, we learned that the tapes we presented need study, i.e., several viewings with numerous pauses and closer examination, to reveal their content. For those of us who lived the experience of the summer, day after day, the images were evocative and created many more echoes than for those who only had those images to go by. For some guests two viewings proved sufficient to move them to state how much more was in store in these scenes on the tapes and even to be charged enough to express a profound change of outlook about what can be done with students.


News Items

Our effort to get across meaning of the meeting between teacher and student as a human encounter from which solutions to educational challenges can result was successful with some teachers, perhaps with one out of every three of those who came — at least this is what appeared to be the case at the conferences’ feedback sessions. And we were pleased that 15 out of 45 at the first, 20 out of 50 in the second, and 30 out of 60 in the third said so. We cannot conclude that the rest got nothing out of the conferences, but we also do not want to assume that they did. We heard a number of participants found our “Suggestions” to be both useful and thought-provoking. In these booklets we put not only what we learned during the experiment last summer that is supported by evidence in our tapes and other files, but also our guiding principles which could guide others if they made sense to them. Since only a few copies are left of the first printing, we cannot encourage requests for them. However, it is not excluded that a separate publication for sale to the public could be prepared in the next few months from all the work that involved four of us for so long.


An Obituary

On the first day of this year Emile Georges Cuisenaire died at the age of 84, honored in his country as few innovators have been noted in many countries all over the world. Born in August 1891, in the small historic Walloon town of Thuin, he spent all his years on the banks of the lovely river Sambre. He fought in Word War I for his country and was a victim of the poisonous gases used for the first time by the Germans to clean the trenches. Gassed a second time, he was considered a rare case of survival and his longevity tells us a great deal of his zest for living. A convinced patriot, he marched on all national occasions as a War Veteran wearing his decorations with pride. He even wore ribbon forms on his indoor garments in order never to forget he was dedicated to the causes of his fatherland. He composed marches and patriotic songs he taught his young students who paraded with him. Although this glory occupied his mind, a greater one came his way as he managed to receive an inspiration which chose him from among the many inventors of teaching aids. In December 1952, he published a thin booklet: “Les Nombres en Couleurs” which can be considered a turning point in the teaching of mathematics at the elementary levels and in which he presented his colored rods made of sawed up 30 cm rulers. In less than 15 years, with my help, his “reglettes” were in use in many schools in over one hundred countries. Cuisenaire always had a handful of them in his pocket, and when he was not yet feted as the hero of Thuin, he would show them to fellow passengers in the trains to


On Literacy

Liege or Brussels and ask them tenderly: “Do you know these?” and would introduce himself proudly as their father, to the enchantment or the surprise of the others. His contribution was considered to be so momentous that he was honored in 1965 by the government of his country, which conferred on him the cross of the Order of Leopold. A very special honor. I have known Georges Cuisenaire since April 1953 and was so impressed with his contribution that I gave almost fully ten years of my life to take it everywhere I went and to extend it as much as my gifts permitted. I wrote in twenty texts the developments of his fruitful gift to the world. In the 50’s, Cuisenaire himself lectured widely to French speaking audiences and took good care of his creation in correspondence with many teachers who sent their thanks for his gift to them and their students. “Friends of Cuisenaire” associations of teachers exist in a number of places to maintain contact among those who benefited from his work while perpetuating his name. In other publications I told the story of what happened to me when I visited his classes of Thuin for the first time and after. Almost a quarter of a century later I am as sure as I was then that I witnessed a miracle in education (where there are so few). An elementary school teacher had managed to remove the drudgery from the teaching of the only subject all children in the world have to take as part of their elementary education. Georges lived his long life as a family man, as a conservative in politics and in his life style but a revolutionary in the field of arithmetic. He dared and made a vital and lasting impact. I salute him today, as I did twenty-three years ago, as the one who was chosen to do a most important job everybody knew needed doing but no one knew how. Caleb Gattegno


About Caleb Gattegno Caleb Gattegno is the teacher every student dreams of; he doesn’t require his students to memorize anything, he doesn’t shout or at times even say a word, and his students learn at an accelerated rate because they are truly interested. In a world where memorization, recitation, and standardized tests are still the norm, Gattegno was truly ahead of his time. Born in Alexandria, Egypt in 1911, Gattegno was a scholar of many fields. He held a doctorate of mathematics, a doctorate of arts in psychology, a master of arts in education, and a bachelor of science in physics and chemistry. He held a scientific view of education, and believed illiteracy was a problem that could be solved. He questioned the role of time and algebra in the process of learning to read, and, most importantly, questioned the role of the teacher. The focus in all subjects, he insisted, should always be placed on learning, not on teaching. He called this principle the Subordination of Teaching to Learning. Gattegno travelled around the world 10 times conducting seminars on his teaching methods, and had himself learned about 40 languages. He wrote more than 120 books during his career, and from 1971 until his death in 1988 he published the Educational Solutions newsletter five times a year. He was survived by his second wife Shakti Gattegno and his four children.

On Literacy  
On Literacy  

Newsletter, Vol. V No. 4, April 1976 Educational Solutions Worldwide Inc. Educational Solutions Worldwide Inc. 2 nd Floor 99 University Plac...